BY BARRY LANK
Glassell Park – What does it take to start a small farm in Los Angeles?
In Andrew Raffaele’s case, it takes 1.25 acres of vacant land at the end of Loma Lada Drive, a pile of city-mixed compost, permission for a sewer line and other infrastructure and, from time to time, a back ache.
Raffaele and his wife, Lindsay, are starting Orto Farms just south of Walnut Canyon. Though he said the area is already zoned for agriculture and would not require special city permits, Raffaele has nonetheless started a petition of support.
He also recently gained favor from the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council – contingent on making sure the farm doesn’t cause too much odor and is not rented out for film shoots or events.
Indeed, the compost had only a fairly mild smell during a recent visit by The Eastsider. The surrounding neighborhood already has a semi-rural, farm-like ambiance. On a parcel next door, goats and a pig stare down the hill at the Orto Farm.
As for an events venue, Raffaele said he hadn’t even thought about it until neighbors brought it up at a recent neighborhood council hearing.
“The thing about small farms is [that they are] not great for wedding venues,” he said. “You need to use all the space for farming.”
Raffaele said he plans to split the parcel into a market garden of salanova lettuce, a drought tolerant orchard on a low hillside and a garden of indigenous plants. In order to avoid using pesticides, and to grow plants year-round, even during the scorching the summer months, Raffaele plans to build shelters to shield the lettuce.
Proceeds from selling the crop would go to charity – specifically homeless shelters and domestic violence safe houses.
Raffaele himself is a recovering academic who said he felt a little lost after leaving Loyola with a masters in modern European history. He had always been active in charity and gardening, however. He worked at GrowGood two or three times a week and joined the Los Angeles Chapter of the Farmers Guild. He bought the land for Orto Farm last summer.
The farm, in other words, will just be a farm, not an entertainment venue.
“There will be guys playing acoustic guitars,” he said. “But that’s just us being goofy.”
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